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Northeast Florida


Health care industry, home building and new business interest

Mortgage servicers public-sector jobs

Jacksonville/Duval County

» After a six-year slump, Jacksonville real estate is back. Home sales increased 7.1% last year, with the median price jumping 6.8% to $133,500. Permits for new homes were up 35% last year, though still far below their peak levels in 2005.

» Mortgage servicers are still feeling the effects of the housing collapse, however. Mortgage servicer Homeward Residential intends to lay off 370 in its Jacksonville office. Lender Processing Services agreed to pay $127 million to resolve claims that it wrongfully foreclosed on homeowners and used “robo-signing.” University of North Florida economist Paul Mason believes this industry's slump is temporary. “As the number of mortgages increases, somebody will have to service them,” he says.

»  Elsewhere in the economy, the financial sector is a bright spot, adding 1,200 jobs last year. Citibank hired 200 at its southside Jacksonville office and plans to hire 200 more; Foundation Financial Group expanded its regional sales center and mortgage division; Deutsche Bank has shifted hundreds of jobs to Jacksonville. EverBank brought its headquarters into Jacksonville's downtown along with 1,700 jobs, including 200 new positions.

» From health insurers to hospitals, Jacksonville's health care companies are expanding as well. Surgical device maker Medtronic will add 175 jobs to its 600-plus Jacksonville workforce and will construct a 75,000-sq.-ft. addition to its surgical technologies division headquarters. Mayo Clinic is undergoing a $100-million expansion expected to create about 200 construction and staff jobs. In December, Baptist Health opened the 11-story, $200-million J. Wayne and Delores Barr Weaver Tower, featuring state-of-the-art surgical suites with intraoperative imaging capabilities. Novitas Solutions, a Florida Blue subsidiary, is adding 200 jobs.

» Meanwhile, the city laid off 150 employees in September and demoted another 150 to cut costs.

Businesses to Watch

» Healogics: The wound care management services company is expanding its Jacksonville headquarters and recently opened a training center. It expects to add 20 jobs in Jacksonville this year.

» Brightway Insurance: Sales increased more than 50% last year to $257 million. This year, the company expects to earn an additional $100 million.

» Rayonier: The 13th-biggest landowner in the world, Rayonier has had a good year under new CEO Paul Boynton, with its stock up 23% from the beginning of 2012, and its profit, sales and cash on hand improving from the year before. Much of its growth comes from fibers derived from trees, which are used in cigarette filters, LCD screens and more.

» Body Central: The struggling women's apparel retailer brought in a new CEO to help turn its sales around. Same-store sales dropped 11.6% in the fourth quarter. The company decided to keep its headquarters in Jacksonville after flirting with the idea of moving to Georgia last year, securing more than $500,000 in local and state incentives to stay.

People to Watch



» Patrick Geraghty: As CEO of Florida Blue, Geraghty has overseen the expansion of stand-alone retail stores and is participating in a marketplace that allows employees to choose among health insurers' plans. Florida Blue and Florida Blue Foundation committed $5.2 million last year and $5.6 million over the next two years to Jacksonville non-profits.

» Tim Cost: The new president of Jacksonville University plans to strengthen ties with the business community and will lead an $85-million fundraising effort.

» Nikolai Vitti: As the new superintendent for Duval County public schools, Vitti, 36, was recruited from Miami-Dade's public schools, where he was credited with turning around low-performing schools.

Duval Population: 888,874
Population Growth Rate (2009-13): 0.84%
Population by Age:
0-14 15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
19.72% 5.97% 29.39% 32.95% 11.97%
Per Capita Income: $42,709

MSA Dec. 2012 Dec. 2011 % Change Jobless Rate
Jacksonville 643,526 631,946 +1.8% 7.4%
Source: Agency for Workforce Innovation

Homes - Single-family, existing-home sales
MSA 2013 Sales 1-Year Change 2013 Price 1-Year Change
Jacksonville 13,726 +9.4% $155,000 +4.7%
Source: Florida Realtors

St. Augustine/St. Johns County

» The county is counting on getting a tourism boost from events surrounding the Viva Florida 500th anniversary celebration this year. In concert with the yearlong celebration, the county is opening a new history museum.

» Meanwhile, St. Johns has attracted companies that are bringing nearly 500 jobs. Advanced Disposal is moving its headquarters to St. Johns from Duval County, bringing 120 jobs. The waste management company was enticed by $850,000 in state and local economic incentives. Home builder D.R. Horton also plans to build a 25,100-sq.-ft. regional headquarters in the county, employing up to 270 when it is complete, says St. Johns County's director of economic development Melissa Glasgow. And in September, 2G Cenergy opened its first U.S. manufacturing facility and headquarters in the county, employing 125. Home building has picked up, with more home permits issued in St. Johns than in neighboring Duval last year.

St. Johns Population: 207,434
Population Growth Rate (2009-13): 2.73%
Population by Age:
0-14 15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
17.93% 6.63% 21.28% 36.76% 17.39%
Per Capita Income: $52,861


Orange Park/Clay County

» St. Vincent's HealthCare is opening a hospital with 64 beds this year. Baptist Health will open a $39-million medical campus on Fleming Island next month that includes an emergency room and a medical office building. The existing Orange Park Medical Center added 42 beds, a cardiac unit and Level 2 trauma center.

» The first segment of the First Coast Outer Beltway toll road was also completed, with the second phase under construction. The road will help link the county with Interstate 10 and Interstate 95.

Clay Population: 202,798
Population Growth Rate (2009-13): 1.76%
Population by Age:
0-14 15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
20.19% 7.13% 24.15% 35.08% 13.45%
Per Capita Income: $35,483


Nassau County

» The Nassau County Economic Development Board has launched a five-year plan to bring 3,800 jobs to the county and is soliciting $2 million from local governments and employers over five years; so far, funding for the first year has been raised, says Executive Director Steve Rieck. The county has approved a 24,000-acre, mixed-use project, with 4,200 acres set for immediate development. The 1,800-acre Crawford Diamond industrial park “mega-site” is close to being ready for development, offering access to CSX and Norfolk Southern rail lines, JaxPort, the Port of Fernandina and two interstates, Rieck says.

» The $85-million renovation of the Omni Hotels and Resort at Amelia Island Plantation was completed in March, adding 160 full-time jobs and 200 seasonal jobs.

Nassau Population: 77,283
Population Growth Rate (2009-13): 1.56%
Population by Age:
0-14 15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
17.28% 5.61% 22.02% 36.28% 18.81%
Per Capita Income: $46,912

Putnam County

» County officials were relieved when call center Alorica, which had threatened to leave, landed enough new business to keep 170 jobs. The company still laid off more than 100, says Alex McCoy, chief economic developer for the Putnam County Chamber of Commerce. A core road leading to the county's business park is expanding, opening up another 100 acres for development, McCoy says.

» The Jacksonville Foreign Trade Zone now includes Putnam, a development that allows businesses to reduce, defer or eliminate duties on parts they import for manufacturing or distribution.

» Plum Creek is developing an industrial park, and the airport has completed a runway-strengthening project, enabling aircraft up to 80,000 pounds to land and take off from its 6,000-foot runway.

Putnam Population: 74,348
Population Growth Rate (2009-13): -0.07%
Population by Age:
0-14 15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
18.68% 6.01% 21.43% 33.94% 19.94%
Per Capita Income: $30,154


Baker County

» Two sand mining companies are interested in Baker County. Tampa-based Oldcastle Southern Group and Lake Wales-based E.R. Jahna Industries want to mine up to 370 acres at two sites southeast and northeast of Maclenny, says Baker County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Darryl Register. Efforts to seek approval from the county commission were put on hold last year after strong opposition emerged. “Both companies seem to be still interested and working to get their permits and approvals,” Register says. Baker also continues to promote its two privately owned industrial parks.

Baker Population: 27,453
Population Growth Rate (2009-13): 0.30%
Population by Age:
0-14 15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
21.43% 6.21% 27.02% 33.29% 12.04%
Per Capita Income: $29,032


Columbia County

» Plum Creek will break ground this year on a 2,600-acre inland port designed to take advantage of its proximity to JaxPort, two rail lines and Interstate 10 and 75, says Jesse Quillen, executive director of the Columbia County Economic Development Department.

» The county sustained $13 million in damage from Tropical Storm Debby, which dumped a foot of water into an already saturated county.

» Commercial occupancy rates have improved to about 80%, says Scott Stewart, a commercial broker with Rockford Realty Group. “After several years of rent reductions, we are actually getting some rent increases in our renewals as well as more inquiries from new businesses,” Stewart says.

» Three new restaurants are also under construction: Chick-Fil-A, Olive Garden and a Longhorn Steakhouse.

Columbia Population: 69,491
Population Growth Rate (2009-13): 0.76%
Population by Age:
0-14 15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
18.76% 5.87% 24.84% 33.53% 17.00%
Per Capita Income: $29,295